Drug advisers told no chance of decriminalising possession laws

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, issued a humiliating rebuke to her drug advisers after they called for the possession of drugs to be decriminalised.

The Home Office said there was no intention to give people a “green light” to use drugs because they “destroy lives and cause untold misery”.

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) risked a fresh row with the Home Office after suggesting those who possess any drug, including cocaine or heroin, for personal use should be taken out of the criminal justice system.

The Government issued a blunt statement insisting drug laws would not be liberalised and “decriminalisation is not the answer”. It is the latest in a series of run-ins between Whitehall’s official drug advisory body and the Home Office.

In 2009, the then Home Secretary Alan Johnson, sacked the ACMD chairman Professor David Nutt after he openly criticised the Government’s stance on cannabis. He had also previously said taking Ecstasy was no more dangerous than riding a horse.

The ACMD called for a review on how those caught in possession of drugs are handled in a submission to the Sentencing Council, which is consulting on guidelines for courts on drug offences.

However, it is not in the remit of the Sentencing Council to consider what would effectively decriminalisation and the ACMD only included its comments in the final section asking for any further comments. It wrote: “There is an opportunity to be more creative in dealing with those who have committed an offence by possession of drugs.

“For people found to be in possession of drugs (any) for personal use (and involved in no other criminal offences), they should not be processed through the criminal justice system but instead be diverted into drug education/awareness courses.”

The courses “would be the equivalent of the apparently successful ‘speed awareness’ courses to which drivers can be referred as a diversion”, the council added. It also suggested that those accused of possessing drugs could also face “more creative civil punishments”, such as the loss of a driving licence or passport.

A spokesman for the Home Office said: “We have no intention of liberalising our drugs laws. Drugs are illegal because they are harmful – they destroy lives and cause untold misery to families and communities. “Those caught in the cycle of dependency must be supported to live drug free lives, but giving people a green light to possess drugs through decriminalisation is clearly not the answer.”

Source: www.telegraph.co.uk 18th Oct 2011

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